UPDATE 12/9/18: Babies have arrived! Susie Rabaca is doing well after giving birth to her twins – a boy and a girl – just a week after learning a perfect match had been found for her bone-marrow transplant. The babies were born eight minutes apart and are also reportedly doing well. Rabaca is expected to undergo her bone-marrow transplant soon.
UPDATE 11/28/18: Donor found! Susie Rabaca, the woman pregnant with twins and diagnosed with aggressive acute myeloid leukemia, has found a perfect match for a bone marrow transplant. After sharing her story and her need for a 100 percent match on November 22, nearly 40,000 people registered for Be the Match – a record-breaking number. There are about 30 million people registered with Be the Match, but none of them had been a match for Rabaca until now.
Rabaca’s perfect match has the potential to save her life after she gives birth to her twins sometime in the next week.
11/28/18: Women are often encouraged to abort their children when they are diagnosed with cancer while pregnant. For many women, however, abortion is simply not an option. Rather than sacrifice the life of their preborn child for their own chance at survival, they take the risk with their own lives to fight for their child’s survival.
Susie Rabaca is one of those women.
Rabaca is due with twins the first week of December. Back in September, she learned the heartbreaking news that she has acute myeloid leukemia, an aggressive form of cancer in her blood and bone marrow. She had been feeling tired and ill when doctors discovered the cancer, and asked if she wanted to abort the babies.
“Of course,” Rabaca told KTLA5, “I was against that.”
Rabaca, who also has three born children, began chemotherapy treatments, and her family members were tested to see if they were a match. Unfortunately, none were. And her combination of Caucasian and Latino heritage means it will be difficult to find one. But Rabaca isn’t about to stop looking. She is asking people to sign up for Be The Match in hopes of finding a donor for herself, and for other people in need of a match.
“What I need people to do is join and they send you a kit, a little swab for your mouth, send it back,” she said. “And if you’re my match it’s as simple as a blood draw, and that can possibly save my life.”
Rabaca’s choice to fight for not just her life, but also her babies’ lives, is a brave one — and it’s one many women make.
Ashley Caughey, a mother of one, was experiencing knee pain, and after a year of believing it to be arthritis, an x-ray revealed it was actually osteosarcoma – bone cancer. She also discovered she was ten weeks pregnant. She could choose abortion, risk chemotherapy that could harm her preborn daughter, or postpone treatment to give her baby the best chance.
“It wasn’t a choice for me,” she told CNN. “It was like this is what needs to be done. She’s first. I’m not going to kill a healthy baby because I’m sick. There’s nothing wrong with her. Her life is just as important as mine if not more important. I mean as a mother my job is to protect my kids.”
After baby Paisley was born, the cancer spread, and Caughey lived just 11 more months.
Stacey Johnson was excited to be expecting her second child, but then discovered a lump in her beast. Just 31 years old, she underwent testing. and the biopsy came back positive for cancer. At 11 weeks pregnant, Johnson was told to abort her baby. She refused and sought a second opinion. After meeting with a breast oncologist at the University of Kansas Health System, she learned she could safely undergo a certain type of chemotherapy and surgery during the second trimester.
After a mastectomy and chemotherapy, her son William was born, and she underwent more invasive procedures.
“They tailored my treatment plan with two patients in mind: me and my baby,” said Johnson. “Everyone says, is like, so complimentary, like, how did you get through it, or how did you do it? Because I had someone else’s life to care about!”
Katie Hanson was pregnant with baby Willow when doctors discovered she had cervical cancer. She was told she should abort her baby, but she refused.
“I was advised to terminate since the pregnancy was still early on, do a biopsy, and seek treatment. I said ‘no’. I was monitored the whole pregnancy. Cervical cancer doesn’t pose a risk to the baby,” she explained. Three months after the birth of Willow, Hanson underwent surgery to remove three inches of her cervix. She has been cancer free for over three years. Willow, however, faced a growing list of health challenges and was eventually diagnosed with I-cell, a condition that most people don’t survive beyond childhood.
Aleks Patete was seven weeks pregnant when a routine ultrasound discovered a cyst on her ovary. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She credits her son DJ with saving her life, because without him, she would not have been undergoing the ultrasound that led to the cancer discovery.
However, doctors told Patete to abort, and then undergo chemotherapy. She refused and was able to find chemotherapy options that would not pose a risk to her baby. “He saved my life,” she said. “Now it was my turn to save his life.” After DJ’s birth, doctors removed Patete’s right ovary and fallopian tube.
“I think about the things that could have happened and what could have gone wrong and there’s no other reason than the grace of God that everything worked out and we are both alive,” she said.
These brave women are just a sample of the countless brave mothers who have chosen to risk their own lives to save their child’s. If you want to find out if you are a match for Rabaca, or any of the other people waiting for a match, contact Be the Match.